Atheists: A Groundbreaking Study of America's Nonbelievers

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Overview

According to polls, almost all Americans believe in God. So atheists naturally stand out as dissident nay-sayers, especially when challenging the use of "God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, or the display of religious symbols in public places. Such protests make many Americans wonder about the motivations and character of militant unbelievers.

But disbelief is spreading. After reviewing the mounting evidence that organized religion is declining in many countries, this accessible ...

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Atheists: A Groundbreaking Study of America's Nonbelievers

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Overview

According to polls, almost all Americans believe in God. So atheists naturally stand out as dissident nay-sayers, especially when challenging the use of "God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, or the display of religious symbols in public places. Such protests make many Americans wonder about the motivations and character of militant unbelievers.

But disbelief is spreading. After reviewing the mounting evidence that organized religion is declining in many countries, this accessible book provides the first scientific study of active atheists. The authors surveyed nearly 300 members of atheist organizations in the United States. Besides soliciting these nonbelievers’ level of education, political leanings, etc., the researchers sought to understand how each respondent had become an atheist. Had they ever believed in God, or had they never? Had they paid a price for their atheism?

Three chapters describe the levels of dogmatism, zealotry, and religious prejudice found among the active atheists. These results, compared with others obtained from more ordinary samples of atheists (and strong fundamentalists), often surprised the authors. Uniquely, the book features a chapter in which the atheists give their reaction to the study and its often-surprising findings. Another chapter breaks down the answers a large Canadian sample gave to the measures used in the American study, according to how religious the respondent was—from atheist to agnostic to four different levels of theistic intensity. A clear finding emerged: the more religious a group was, the more their personalities, prejudices, and beliefs separated them from everyone else.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Who are the atheists? What sustains them? The authors have opened the door to scientific research in this area in a meticulous and very engaging way. Once you start reading this book you won’t want to put it down! The reader is in for a surprise (an interesting one) and a treat at every turn of a page."
RAYMOND F. PALOUTZIAN
Professor of Psychology, Westmont College, Santa Barbara, CA
Editor, The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion

"This slender, conversational, but methodologically sound treatise on the inner world of atheists will pleasantly surprise readers accustomed to the soporific ‘academese’ of most sociological studies…The study is limited in scope, but the flaws are so forthrightly acknowledged and the writing is so fresh, honest, compelling and entertaining, that it is bound to become an important launching point for more studies of what makes atheists tick."

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

Publishers Weekly
This slender, conversational, but methodologically sound treatise on the inner world of atheists will pleasantly surprise readers accustomed to the soporific "academese" of most sociological studies. Altemeyer and (the late) Hunsberger have conducted some of the first surveys of atheists, a decided minority within a very religious United States. The book is based primarily on surveys of "active" atheists (i.e., members of atheist clubs in the San Francisco Bay Area, Alabama and Idaho), as well as on a comparison group of Canadian parents (who happened to have children in the authors' psychology classes at the University of Manitoba). In previous studies, atheists have been lumped together with "the nonreligious" who might include unaffiliated or "non-church-attending" theists. Here, self-described atheists finally get their day, as perhaps they should since one of the growing religious categories in the General Social Survey of Americans is "None." The study is limited in scope, but the flaws are so forthrightly acknowledged and the writing is so fresh, honest, compelling and entertaining that it is bound to become an important launching point for more studies of what makes atheists tick. (June) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Hunsberger (psychology, Wilfred Laurier Univ.) and Altemeyer (psychology, Univ. of Manitoba) here present what may be one of the first objective empirical studies devoted solely to atheists. Using survey research methods, the authors target atheists who belong to "atheist clubs" in San Francisco, Alabama, Idaho, and Manitoba in an attempt to gather data about their reasons for nonbelief, dogmatism, zealotry, and ethnocentrism. Their findings suggest that atheists value truth, are more likely to let their children make up their own minds regarding religious belief, and may exhibit a level of dogmatism that is comparable to that of their Christian fundamentalist counterparts. However, as the authors rightfully caution, their study was conducted on a small population of self-described atheists who took the time to join atheist clubs and so their study may therefore be flawed. The authors also caution that similar studies and study replication need to be completed before their findings are validated. Still, this book is a good place to start preliminary research. Highly recommended for libraries with strong collections in survey research, psychology, sociology, and religious studies.-Brad S. Matthies, Butler Univ. Lib., Indianapolis Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781591024132
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books
  • Publication date: 6/28/2006
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 6.06 (w) x 8.96 (h) x 0.35 (d)

Meet the Author

Bruce E. Hunsberger (1946-2003) was professor of psychology at Wilfred Laurier University and the winner of the William James Award from the American Psychological Association for outstanding research in religion.

Bob Altemeyer (Winnipeg, Canada) is associate professor of psychology at the University of Manitoba and the recipient of the Prize in Behavioral Science Research from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Altemeyer and Hunsberger are the coauthors of Amazing Conversions: Why Some Turn to Faith and Others Abandon Religion.

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Table of Contents

Ch. 1 How we studied atheists 23
Ch. 2 Are the "atheists" really atheists? 35
Ch. 3 How do people become atheists? 41
Ch. 4 Dogmatism 59
Ch. 5 Zealotry 69
Ch. 6 Religious ethnocentrism 79
Ch. 7 Other findings 89
Ch. 8 Summary and predictions about "ordinary" American atheists 103
Ch. 9 Agnostics and inactive believers in the Manitoba parent sample 115
Ch. 10 Responses from members of the atheist organizations we surveyed 131
App Survey sent to the San Francisco atheists clubs 145
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2013

    Awful book

    Dogmatism, zealotry and prejudice are the hallmarks of CHRISTIANITY, not atheism. This piece of trash is pure projection. The authors are writing about themselves. What a ridiculous book.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2014

    Great book

    From prometheus -- the atheist press.
    Enjoyable and well-done

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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